One-click installation is not exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes it can take up to two clicks to get something completely installed. Web hosting providers that offer one-click installs of popular applications make your job of setting up a new website a lot easier.
What is involved with getting a web application installed and properly configured for use on a server? Quite a bit, actually.
This isn’t something most of us think about anymore. Most of the commercial software we use on our home computers come pre-loaded. Other times, it installs automatically from an App Store or has some kind of built-in installation wizard to help guide you through the process.
But it wasn’t always the case.
Any single software application usually relies on a number of other software applications. Think about your home or office computer: If you use a common program like Word, that program is relying on another program to run the printer. Furthermore, another program to manages fonts, and several dozen other programs to do several dozens other things.
Or have you ever thought about how the computer knows that when you click on a certain type of file, it should open the specific program you want?
This sort of thing has to be specified and defined. It doesn’t just happen automatically.
And don’t forget specific language support. If a program was written in one version of a language, and your computer uses a different version of that language, there might be problems. How complicated can install new software be? Here’s what one expert had to say about it:
I dread installing stuff, and I have a Ph.D. in computer science.
– Paul Graham, Founders at Work
Fortunately, most of us don’t have to deal with that on a regular basis anymore. At least, that’s the case for our consumer products: desktops, laptops, and mobile phones.
However, web development can often bring us back to the ‘bad old days’ of installation problems. This is especially true because of the variety of web hosting technologies and the rapid pace of web development.
No developer wants to build the thousand individual pieces of technology required to do something basic, so they rely on other technologies, other programs, to get things done.
A common installation would look like this in 5 steps:
This should be the first thing you take into account, to avoid wasting time. While the installation won’t work anyway, it wouldn’t make sense to do any preparation if you know you lack basic system requirements.
Well, the code is probably written in PHP, so you have to make sure that the language is supported on the server. And not just any version of PHP, either. You have to have the one that the CMS requires.
Once you have the code files uploaded onto the server, they have to be accessible. This isn’t trivial. Servers set permission levels for each file, declaring who can read them, who can run them, and who can write to them.
Modern CMS systems usually need to be able to write to their own files (to save configuration details), but you can’t let potentially malicious outsiders write to the files.
There has to be a database created, which means first of all the right database management software has to be present, in the right version. Then the database has to be created and the interaction credentials copied into the code for the CMS we’re setting up.
Finally, the data model of the CMS has to be set up in the database, through the creation of tables, columns, and other database structures.
Various libraries and third-party applications that the CMS relies on have to be installed. For example, an edit-page image cropper might rely on the GD Graphics library. Video playback might require streaming software.
The number of things that need to happen on a web server in order to get a single, simple application up and running can be maddening. No wonder Paul Graham hates installing software.
One-click installation is essentially like those Install Wizards you see on your home computer. Someone has taken the time to figure out all of the things that are needed for an application to be installed properly and then built another application that makes sure those things are in place.
The installer does a variety of things you’d be required to do manually otherwise. These tedious tasks automated by your installer are:
With the above tasks taken care of by the one-click installer, we can lay back and enjoy the 5-minute wait, while our installations are efficiently taken care of.
Once upon a time, there weren’t many. Now, however, we are spoilt for choice when wanting to choose a one-click installer for our needs. Two of the most popular options at the moment are Softaculous and Installatron.
The list of available one-click installers is bigger than the two, but we’ll primarily be covering the top dogs on this page. Here are most we would recommend, including some standard alternatives:
Possibly the most popular one-click installer at the moment of publishing. Softaculous is an easy-to-use script library, created for commercial use, supporting almost 300 applications. It is available via multiple control panels, including cPanel, Plesk, ISPmanager, DirectAdmin, and Interworx.
Due to it being widely supported along with applications for almost all uses, it’s been the most frequently used auto-installer for some time.
Released in 2004, Installatron is a multi-platform application installer, compatible with Linux, BSD, and Windows. Further support was added for cPanel Enkompass and Parallels Plesk on Windows. Similarly to Softaculous, Installatron is also an online script library and auto-installer, covering more than 100 applications in total.
Many users who have been depending on this service since the early days, still use it.
Some hosting providers offer unique bespoke ways of installing your selected apps and software faster. Bluehost and iPage are a brilliant example. These two have a separate marketplace available for users, allowing one-click installs with certain packages. Don’t let the word marketplace fool you, it’s essentially still an online script library at your service.
Furthermore, Hostgator is another provider with convenience in mind. They offer a handy quick installer, making it possible to eliminate your time waste and stress when needing your favorite programs.
Many web hosts, especially those that cater to non-developers, provide some form of one-click install support. This is usually provided by a third-party install wizard like Softaculous or Fantastico.
These companies keep track of changes to the applications they support to make sure their own install scripts are always up-to-date with the latest versions.
It’s fair to say there are dozens of companies who support Softaculous due to its flexible nature. My top recommendations for such hosts are outlined below.
All three brands are highly sought of in the hosting industry, both by professionals and leisurely users. With impressive uptime guarantees and server locations, they are a good bet. Check out the individual reviews for further, in-depth information.
While not as popular as Softaculous, Installatron also has a solid handful of companies supporting it for its speediness. They are:
Aside from GoDaddy, these brands aren’t necessarily as popular or known as the latter. Having said that, they are equally great options for their own reasons, offering super-competitive perks for new and existing users.
Many web hosts offer the option to install a pre-built web application with the click of a button. All of the software, database, and configuration files will be automatically generated and you will be provided with an instantly created website.
One-click installs save you the hassle of setting up the application piece by piece.
The options available to you vary from host to host.
Generally, most web hosting service providers will have a few different options which include several Content Management Systems (CMS), forum software, eCommerce applications, classified ad applications, client management software, webmail, or a Wiki.
In reference to a “platform” that generally means what technology “stack” is being used.
The most common platform for one-click installs is sites which use PHP and MySQL.
Any .NET host will have a variety of ASP.NET application templates, and other providers will offer NodeJS, Python or JAVA.
Again, though, the most widely available one-click sites are PHP based, with CMS platforms like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, being among the most popular applications.
There’s no one single answer. Selecting a CMS requires advanced planning of what the point of your site will be in terms of what it needs to communicate, or what additional features you need.
The two platforms in PHP with the highest user-base are WordPress and Joomla.
WordPress has the most users, and the highest number of Plugins/extensions, while Joomla has a focus on security and user management.
There are also other great options on platforms other than PHP, so take consideration before picking a platform. Sometimes performance is more important than functionality.
A one-click install is instigated by you, the user. You click on a button and it sends a RESTful message to your webhost.
In turn, your webhost has a script which has deep permissions to use the folder structure you have and the database, to create new sub-folders, databases, tables, etc.
Every application has a pre-built install script that tells the database (usually MySQL) what tables to make and populates them with the starting data needed.
The required PHP files are dropped into the specified directory and the domain/subdomain is automatically pointed there. Voila, you have a new site!
Depending on your host, many modern hosts have very high amounts of storage that you are allotted to use before installing an application.
With that said, though, most applications are pretty light-weight in terms of actual disk space. The bulk of the information that could push you over the edge is the content which might be populated.
So if you setup a Wiki or a Blog, don’t dump a ton of video files in without checking your size limits. Also, during the install, if size is an issue, the install likely will not work and you will be alerted.
Not speaking on behalf of all hosts, but based on the most common types of installs around, there are some limits to what can or cannot be installed.
As PHP is the most common platform, other software stacks are often not available.
Although mobile websites can be setup from a CMS or other applications, there are not a lot of out-of-the-box dedicated mobile applications. Neither are there applications that would run native on someone’s phone, so don’t expect anything beyond a mobile website.
Finally, an application requires reliable high bandwidth, such as a video sharing site, won’t often be available via one-click because it requires a powerful content delivery network (CDN) which is expensive and often proprietary.
There aren’t any well-known applications that will automatically set this up for you during one-click installs.
However, if you install a popular CMS, eCommerce or Social platform, there is a strong chance that “OAuth” plugins will be very easy to find.
On the other hand, even OAuth plugins require some manual setup too. For applications that use Google or Facebook logins, you will need to create a developer account on those sites and generate API Keys to be used on your site.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to set this up that don’t require starting from scratch.
Again, this totally depends on who your host is and what application you choose to install.
Some services have proprietary applications that you can install, which allow you to pick the theme and customize the primary content before the application gets generated.
Also, with popular CMS platforms, some hosts will provide integrated views to their Themes & Plugins marketplace during the install, and some will even let you pick the theme prior to install completion.
That depends on whether you’re trying to put up something up quickly or if you’re more interested in learning about how websites work.
A one-click install is very effective and will avoid a lot of basic human errors, but making those errors often will show you how the data connects to the code, and how that generates the HTML that gets displayed for site visitors to see.
Moreover, setting up a site on your own allows for deeper customization. What’s more, if you become a good developer you can create whatever you desire.
One-click installs are a great service, and a great way to get started on the web.